SLO County refuses to release video in jail inmate death

Aug 7, 2017

After multiple public records requests from local news agencies, San Luis Obispo County refused to provide any of the 100 hours of video footage related to the death of county jail inmate Andrew Holland, according to County Council Rita Neal

Holland died in January from a blood clot formed from being strapped to a restraint chair in the county jail for 46 hours. He was 36 years old and had schizophrenia. Holland's death is one of 11 county inmate deaths the FBI is currently investigating.

Neal said the county is exempt under section 6254F under the Public Records Act, saying since it is security footage from law enforcement and under investigation, the county isn't required to release it.

Holland's family and their lawyer, Paula Canny, said they were able to review the footage, alleging the video showed Holland naked in the restraint chair, forced to defecate and urinate on himself since he could not get up. 

David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, said the county is definitely exempt from releasing the footage under that particular section of the Public Records Act. But Snyder said, since the video footage was allegedly shown to the family and their lawyer, the county may not be able to legally bar the rest of the public from seeing it.

"The California Public Records Act does not generally permit public agencies to selectively disclose public records," Snyder said. "So once an agency discloses public records to any third party--that's any party other than within the agency--they in essence waive their ability to withhold those records to anybody."

In late July, the Holland family settled with the county for $5 million regarding Andrew Holland's death. County Council Neal says county officials took this course of action to avoid a lawsuit.